Thursday, October 8, 2009

Deciding About Afghanistan

Barack Obama is taking his time deciding what should be the strategy in Afghanistan. Some people think he's taking too much time, but I think it's a very serious decision, which will result - no matter what the ultimate decision is - in lots of people dying, so it should be made carefully. You want it to be the right people dying, not the wrong ones.

The other day he convened lots of lawmakers to discuss the matter. I always ask myself if the politicians who get invited to such meetings (and lawmakers are by definition politicians) come prepared. Do they do their homework? Do they read the relevant materials? Or do they come to the meeting, posture a bit for the media, and hope their presence and sagicity will be noted? Anyway, at the meeting Obama indicated that he's not about to draw down the number of American troops. So he's apparently not seeking a quick way out of the campaign. But what will he decide upon? We still don't know.

The Economist has an interesting column on the matter, which looks at the pending decision through the obvious filter of Vietnam.
To many, Vietnam proves the futility of Western powers using force in somebody
else’s country. The West’s record in colonial wars, and later interventions, is
hardly glorious. Yet there have been some successful counter-insurgency
campaigns, notably by the British in Malaya in the 1950s and by the Americans in
the Philippines a century ago. Even in Vietnam, many scholars argue, the
Americans belatedly got the knack for irregular warfare, blending political,
economic and military action. South Vietnam, they note, was largely pacified
after the 1968 Tet offensive; it succumbed not to the insurgents, but to the
regular armies of North Vietnam, after the war effort was starved of support by
Congress. America did not lose the fight; it lost the will to fight.

The single most important description of the war that the public can see at the moment (becasue someone leaked it) is General McChrystal's report from the end of August. On one level it's a joy to read: a calm, well-informed, thoughtful document, which offers an analysis and a way forward, without the perpetual shrill point-scoring which characterizes most of the political discussion. Beyond the rhetoric, however, it contains a clear statement about the fundamentals of the war.

It's a war for the hearts of the Muslims. They can be convinced to join the free world; or they can be convinced not to, which means they'll be against it. Since the Islamists are willing to kill lots of their own on the way to killing even more of the rest of us, stopping them requires winning hearts, but also creating conditions on the ground in which those hearts can be won. Since the Islamists will kill anyone who doesn't go with them, the task is to defend those people (that means waging war), while creating for and with them an alternative to the Islamist strategy that will clearly be better. If this isn't done right, the people who need to be protected will themselves become the enemy.

It's a complicated situation, but the General certainly has me convinced that his road is the least worst one to take. Will he convince his Commander in Chief?


Empress Trudy said...

Why? Why do we care? What is the point of Afghanistan? Liberals in the west call it the first feminist war. Others call it the war on terror. "Humanitarians" call it a war to save people. Iranian apologists, libertarians and crypto fascists like the blogger Glenn Greenwald are closested America Firsters who don't want an American foreign policy at all on the hope that violent Islam will spread world wide and wipe out the Jews. So what's the point? It will take a quarter million troops for most of decade to 'pacify' Afghanistan. Americans aren't going to tolerate that nor should they. At the end of the day people are being butchered and oppressed by the millions all over the world. The UN sits on its hands ignoring them while devoting nearly its entire effort to exterminating the Jews.

So I say let Afghanistan implode into whatever bloody bronze age abattoir they like.

Gavin said...

Brings to mind an old comment that in each war the generals are re-fighting their last war, and just end up making the same mistakes over & over.

I despair of the yanks ever getting it right. How many centuries, how many wars, will it take before they realise that foreign armies will never be welcome in another land.

The richest country in the world hasn't worked out that the way to win wars like Iraq & Afghanistan is to buy them. The US & NATO could bribe every Afghan in the country for less than they're spending on their military campaign.

Iran have figured it out, why can't the yanks.


Anonymous said...

I would like to see the US support our friends that our liberal democracies and contain our enemies that are backward despots. Going to war should be a last resort. Maybe we should try going to peace. Wouldn't a US hospital on every corner do more to convert our enemies than a US tank on every corner?

Gavin said...

No it wouldn't. You can't build hospitals or anything else without first establishing security. That has been proven over and over again, from Vietnam to Somalia to Iraq to Afghanistan etc etc. Hearts & minds is a waste of time, money, effort and lives. It doesn't work, it has never worked.

It's the Afghanis country, it's for them to sort their own mess out. The US merely needs to be the biggest & smartest paymaster. They can outbid the Taliban, drug lords or anyone else there, and yet they just do nothing when the Taliban build their ranks of cannon fodder from the large masses of unemployed & poverty stricken.

Put a price of $10,000 on the head of every (dead) Taliban brought in, and then see how far the insurgency goes. Compared with what the yanks are spending there now $10k per head is peanuts... and it would get much better results.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but ThisIsHell is right. I think we should get out of Afghanistan: we're burning men and money to no purpose.

To realize why, read Winston S Churchill, 'The Story of the Malakand Field Force'. Then read Robert Spencer, 'The Truth About Muhammad' and 'The Complete Infidel's Guide to the Koran'. Oh, and Raymond Ibrahim, 'The Al Qaeda Reader'; Mark Gabriel, 'Islam and Terrorism'; Canon Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, 'Faith, Power and Territory' and 'Global Jihad'; and Nonie Darwish, 'Cruel and Usual Punishment'. Also google 'al-wala wa al-bara' - to find out about the doctrine of Loyalty [to Muslims only] and Enmity [to all non-Muslims qua non-Muslims].

Unless and until the majority of Afghans abandon Islam, Afghanistan will remain sharia-soaked and jihad-wracked. It is *impossible* to create a stable, peaceful civil society out of a population suffused with Islam; such populations alternate between ferocious top-down despotisms, and a kind of extreme Dionysian chaos. The British discovered that in Mesopotamia between the wars; as early as 1922 Churchill summed up Iraq as "an ungrateful volcano".
For Islam is a religion of war; Jacques Ellul, speaking as a sociologist, observed in his preface to Bat Yeor's 'The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam', that "there is so much talk nowadays about the tolerance and fundamental pacificism [sic] of Islam, that it is necessary to recall its nature, which is fundamentally warlike", and he argued that in Islam war is not an 'event' but an 'institution'. Anyone who wishes to argue with that observation needs to look at the history of the Ummah, and its present state, and use their commonsense. The ummah, considered as a sort of human gestalt, is programmed by its texts to refuse to make permanent peace with anything it deems contrary to Islam, whether non-Muslims (4/5 of the population of the planet) or those deemed imperfectly Islamic, within itself.

Individual Muslims - such as Canon Sookhdeo, or Ms Darwish - may by heroic effort free themselves and 'defect' (though sharia requires that all who try to leave Islam, should be killed, and may be killed by *any* Muslim who chooses and who has the opportunity). But since [short of a major miracle by HaShem to free millions of souls and minds] I don't see whole populations leaving Islam en masse and therefore ceasing to be dangerous, a strict and relentless policy of separation and containment (as during the Cold War) is probably the only real practicable course of action for non-Muslim humanity...who are permanently threatened by all those many Muslims who take Quran Surah 9: 29 to heart.